Things to do in Rotorua
Rotorua is situated 3 hours south of Auckland and is known as the geothermal wonderland of North New Zealand. It has hot springs, bubbling mud pools and geysers from all of the volcanic activity. It really is such a beautiful place to visit. Below is my list of things to do in Rotorua – make sure you check out the welcome books for discounts as well as Book Me.
Kuirau Park is a public park situated near the town centre with small areas of geothermal activity and a small (and free) hot pool to dip your feet in. Make sure you stick to the walkways to ensure you keep safe from the hot springs. There is also a local Saturday market where there was a busker, craft stalls and food on offer.
The Polynesian Spa has won several awards for the best spa in the world! You get exclusive access to acidic and alkaline natural mineral springs and can add on spa treatments. The geothermal hot mineral waters are sourced from two natural springs and feed into 28 hot mineral pools. The slightly acidic Priest Spring waters relieve tired muscles, aches and pains while the alkaline waters of the Rachel Spring nourish the skin.
We opted for the Deluxe Romantic Bathing package which includes a Lake View Deluxe Private Pool (30 minutes) and access to the Pavilion Pools bathing area ($114 / £57). The private pool is so romantic with beautiful views of the lake. It felt so peaceful and special and is worth paying extra for.
The Pavilion Pools are equally impressive and were surprisingly quiet when we visited. There were no more than 5 people in each pool and some we had to ourselves. The package also includes one freshly squeezed juice per person. Make sure you bring you own towel as they are $11 with a $5 refund when returned. It is one of the best things to do in Rotorua.
Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest
The Redwood Forest covers over 5,600 hectares and is a great place to spend an afternoon. It is free entry and there are several walks of different lengths as well as mountain bike tracks. The redwood trees tower over you creating a magical atmosphere. There are also tree top walks which are $30 which looked pretty cool!
Rainbow Mountain / Crater Lake
Situated south of Rotorua is Rainbow Mountain which takes around 3 hours to climb. Sadly we did not have time for the full hike but had a great second option. The Crater Lake is only 500m one way (around 30 minutes) where you get to view two crater lakes. The main lake is an incredible emerald colour which was just gorgeous.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
There a number of self guided walks around the Waimangu Volcanic Valley which was created by the eruption of Mount Tarawera on 10 June 1886 (exploding Lake Rotomahana to twenty times it original size!!). It is the youngest geothermal system in the world and the only one wholly created as a direct result of a volcanic eruption.
It is home to the Frying Pan Lake which is one of the world’s largest hot water springs and the beautiful Inferno Crater Lake which regularly rises and falls up to 12 metres! We opted for the Waimangu Hiking Tour (self guided) which will takes 2 hours minimum. You follow the crater walkways and the Mount Haszard Hiking Trail from the entrance to the lake. If you don’t fancy the hiking trail, you can take the Waimangu easy walk which leaves this out and takes around 1.5 hours.
There is a free internal shuttle bus which will return you to Waimangu entrance (the loop is not circular!) but it only runs approx. every hour so make sure you time it properly! There is an additional 45 minute Lake Rotomahana Boat Cruise where you can view hot springs that can only be seen by the boat.
You should have plenty of time to walk around and take photos but the key stops on the map are:
- The Southern Crater and Emerald Pool (stop 2): 50m deep with a cold water pool at the floor of the crater
- Frying Pan Lake and Echo Crater (stop 7/8): this was so steamy and you could hear bubbling eery noises from the lake bed boiling!
- Inferno Crater (stop 18): A crater on the side of Mount Haszard – the bluest water we have seen in NZ!
- Warbrick Terrace (stop 28): Multi coloured silica platform with new ripple terraces continuing to form
- Lake Rotomahana (end of the walk): Lots of birds including black swans!
Orakei Korako is a cave and thermal park situated between Rotorua and Lake Taupo which, according to Lonely Planet, is arguable the best thermal area left in New Zealand! It is also known as the ‘Place of Adorning’ with its large geothermal field next to the Waikato River at Lake Ohakuri.
The adventure starts with a short boat ride from the main entrance and café to the geothermal pools. Orakei Korako is one of the most active geothermal fields in New Zealand with small geysers, gurgling mud pools, volcanic hot springs and even a very rare Geothermal Cave.
The vibrant colours of the place known as the ‘Artists Palette’ (see picture below to see why!) was astounding.
There is even free overnight campervan parking available for self contained vehicles. The last boat to the thermal valley leaves at 4.30pm in summer and 4pm in winter and opens at 8am.
Things I missed
- Skyline Gondola with a Luge
- Wai-o-tapu Thermal Valley
- Hell’s Gate
East London Girl: Things to do in Rotorua
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